April 28, 2012

Evidence, Not Smoke and Mirrors

I've always liked the performers Penn and Teller, and I love the fact that they're affiliated with Cato as "H.L. Mencken Research Fellows" (really). Well, I was at a Heritage Foundation meeting at The Broadmoor this week, and in the exhibit hall I picked up a copy of the latest issue of Reason magazine, a smart, well-edited publication which I always enjoy reading. This issue featured an interesting interview with Penn Jillette, author of the new book, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales.

Is there a God? Jillette says, "I don't know." He doesn't believe in God because he says belief is an active thing, and "if belief is active and you don’t know, then you don’t believe." Seems plausible enough (though, in truth, if anyone walks outside The Broadmoor and looks around for 60 seconds yet doesn't believe in God, he is "without excuse").

Gillette, who is almost certainly more intelligent than the majority of modern American evangelicals, is (rightly) exasperated when he asks Christians, "Why do you believe Jesus Christ is our Lord? Do you have evidence?" and is given a reply along the lines of, "I feel it in my heart."

"Do you have evidence?" is precisely the right question to be asking. "I feel it in my heart" is a wholly unsatisfactory answer. The correct answer is: "Yes, we do." If Jillette is not persuaded by the evidence -- specifically, the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead -- then he need not bother with Christianity. After all, "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain," says the apostle Paul. If Christ is not raised, he says, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

Here's hoping Jillette will examine the evidence for himself, and then will repent and believe the good news.

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